The Sports Sermon: New look Hoyas

October 16, 2008

When asked at last Tuesday’s Media Day about the most important thing he learned from former Hoya guard Jon Wallace during his freshman year at Georgetown, Chris Wright responded humorously.

“What I learned from him are his facial expressions,” he said. “He kept everything so secret…Whether he’s having a great game or a horrible game, his facial expression was always the same.”

While those in attendance got a kick out of Wright’s response, it was already clear that he hadn’t in fact inherited Georgetown’s Wallace’s stoic demeanor. A few questions earlier, Wright fielded the first of many questions about a potential shift in speed for this season’s Hoyas. While his answer mirrored the same preseason elusiveness that Coach Thompson enjoys practicing with the media—“I think it’s going to be the same brand, but more running,”—his smile gave a more emphatic answer: this team can fly.

No one expected Wright, one of the fastest guards in the Big East, if not the entire country, to keep a straight face when talking about a greater emphasis on fastbreaks and transition offense. But across the board, the players admitted with some excitement that without Wallace and Roy Hibbert—prototypical halfcourt players—and with the addition of faster frontcourt players like Greg Monroe and Henry Simms to go along with speedy guards like Wright, Jessie Sapp, and Jason Clark, this season’s Hoyas will offer a different offensive look. Even Coach Thompson, whose Princeton-esque style of halfcourt play has been a fixture since he came to the team four years ago, admits that this new squad lends itself to a faster hybrid style.

“We are faster,” he said. “I think this team has the aptitude and athletic ability to play at a faster pace than teams in the past, but at the same time, they understand that at the end of the day halfcourt execution is what wins games.”

Thompson’s plans for a more versatile offense are clear in the bodies of his players. The entire team appears to be leaner than ever, a transformation that Sapp reluctantly explained.

“Oh my god, I don’t even want to talk about the fitness in the offseason,” he said. “I think I ran more this year than my first two years combined.”

While he certainly won’t completely abandon the style of play that has given him so much success, a coach as good as Thompson isn’t likely to ignore an advantage. It’s clear that he is preparing his team for a more fast-paced season. When he wasn’t fielding questions about this year’s speed of play, Thompson faced questions about the loss of last year’s seniors. To these he simply reiterated the importance of focusing on the future and not dwelling on the past. If that future means lightening-quick fastbreaks by Wright and fullcourt outlet passes to a streaking Monroe, no problem.

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